2012-06-01 / Letters

The Mayor’s Least Restrictive Scam

Dear Editor,

I agree with Karen Gerdts on the generalizations portrayed by the editorial concerning Bloomberg and his education cronies’ scam to save money by decimating services to special needs children. This is under the guise that it’s “for the children.” It’s a money-saving scheme that will dilute the education process even more.

As an educator of special needs students for the past 30 years, from severely handicapped, emotional and neurologically impaired, learning disabled, to SETSS (special education teacher support services), I believe I may possess some insight on this topic. Most students that I have serviced throughout my years are wonderful children who are entitled to the extra help they need. They are social, kind, and get along well with their peers and adults. What also exists are the students who border on the criminally insane. They should never even be allowed in a community school because they terrorize both students and adults.

Within any school, the majority of the problem students who wreak havoc on the education process do not come from the special education department. They are mainstream students. Every class of 25-30 students in every school has at least 3-5 students who belong in a self-contained class for emotional/behavioral issues, but are not placed correctly. Frequently, when you meet the parent, you understand where the issues originate.

It only takes one or two students in a class to destroy the educational process for everyone. Now Bloomberg wants to dump more students with behavioral issues on the laps of mainstream teachers. This is unfair for everyone: mainstream students, teachers, and the students who need help.

Most special needs students are already placed in the correct least restrictive environment. It doesn’t have to be a permanent placement. I’ve had students go from self-contained to regular classes, when appropriate.

The top tier of special needs services is SETSS, where a student is in regular classes except for on average, one period a day. There they receive individual instruction in whatever area of weakness they presently possess. There is a maximum of 8 students in this class.

This class is not designed for students with behavioral issues, only academic. As with all students with an IEP (Individual Education Profile), they have a modified promotional criteria that the regular class teachers must abide by when grading these common students. (e.g. If the student masters 40 percent of the standard work, they must be given a passing grade.) My experience is that most regular education teachers never read their special needs students’ IEPs nor concern themselves with modified mandated instruction. They forget that an IEP is a legal document.

Some students, for multiple reasons, can’t function successfully at all in a regular class setting. A self-contained 12:1, or 12:1:1 ratio is more appropriate to address their needs. These classes deal with academic, behavioral, and medical issues. The students feel safer and respond better in the small class environment.

At a time when class size should be reduced, correct assessments and placement should be a priority, and services made available to those who need it, we have a mayor and government that is systematically decimating the funding of American education. The U.S. only spends 2 percent of the budget on education. They should stop complaining and blaming others for being 33rd in the developed world in academic success.


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